Suggested Readings
To Complement “Patterns of Conflict”

Revised December 20, 2005

A highly biased selection for those with an interest in Boyd's Patterns of Conflict. For the sake of brevity, many worthy books were omitted.


1. The Japanese Art of War, Thomas Cleary. A concise summary and introduction to the Zen elements of what we now call maneuver warfare.  One of Boyd's favorite books. [I’m not going to insult you by asking if you’ve read Sun Tzu and Musashi. Unless you can handle the original Chinese and Japanese, though, I suggest you read and compare every translation you can get your hands on, which is why I have not made specific recommendations here.]

2. Boyd - The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, Robert Coram. Boyd the person.

3. The Mind of War - John Boyd and American Security, Grant Hammond. Boyd the strategist. Recommend you read them both, now available in  paperback.

4. FMFM1, Warfighting, USMC (1989) – Although replaced by MCDP 1 in 1997, I prefer this original.  Still the gold standard for maneuver warfare.  The FMFM series is available on CD from Apple Pie Publishers and the MCDPs from Wildside Press.

5.  Product Development for the Lean Enterprise, Michael N. Kennedy.  Why the Toyota Development System is not the Toyota Production System but an entirely different implementation of the same underlying principles.  What I try to show in Certain to Win is that these principles are virtually the same as Boyd's "Organizational Climate" (the "Key Principles of the Blitzkrieg") that also form the foundation of maneuver warfare.  It's the principles that are the same, not the implementations, which is why the techniques of maneuver warfare don't apply to business and why the mechanics of the Toyota Production System, such as kanban and jidoka, don't apply to the development system.


1. Sources of Power, Gary Klein. Data to support Fingerspitzengefühl. He doesn’t use the term “OODA loop,” but after you've read the book, look at Boyd’s last version of the loop and make up your own mind. Klein's next book on the subject, Intuition at Work, is also excellent.
2. Panzer Battles, F.W. von Mellenthin. Maneuver warfare in action by a guy who did it from Capt to Maj Gen.  Many Germans considered Hermann Balck to be their best field commander. Von Mellenthin was his Chief of Staff.
3. The Mask of Command, John Keegan.  Boyd summarized the essence of "command and control" as "leadership and appreciation."  You will find many examples in Keegan's engaging study of the command styles of three great military leaders (Alexander, Wellington, and Grant) and one abject failure - Hitler, who assumed personal command of the German army in December 1941.  I'm beginning to believe, by the way, that the two towering military figures of the 19th Century were Wellington and Grant, not Napoleon and Lee.
4. Maneuver Warfare Handbook, Bill Lind (with exercises by Col Mike Wyly, USMC.) One of the first books on the subject, and still a great introduction.  Honorable mention to John Poole's Phantom Soldier (with foreword by Bill Lind), which has vivid descriptions of what Boyd's "asymmetric fast transients" look like from foxhole view.
5. Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America, Jonathan Shay.  Violate mutual trust and bad things happen to organizations and the individuals in them. Three thousand years ago, the Greeks knew this.  Shay makes a strong case that at its heart, The Iliad is the war diary of a soldier.
6. The Transformation of War, Martin van Creveld. He doesn’t call it “fourth generation warfare,” but that’s what it is.  Van Creveld has seen the future, and you won't like it:  It's non-trinitarian, non-Clausewitzian, and probably not winnable by organized state armies.
7. “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation,” Bill Lind, G. I. Wilson, et. al. They do call it “fourth generation warfare,” and for the very first time.  Why it really is something new.

Hard Core

1. Lost Victories, Erich von Manstein. A master shows how it’s done. Fortunately for most of us, Hitler rarely let him.

2. Steel My Soldiers' Hearts, David Hackworth and Eilhys England. How to transform a unit for 4GW, by a guy who made it happen.

3. Toyota Production System, Taiichi Ohno. An inside look by one of the three people credited by Toyota with creating the system. Read it right after you've gone through Sun Tzu again. Very honorable mention to Jeffrey Liker's The Toyota Way.

4. Fighting Power, Martin van Creveld. How the Germans created what was, pound for pound, probably the most fearsome war machine ever. The keys: Einheit and Auftragstaktik (as you undoubtedly suspected.) If not for Hitler, they might have won (if not for Hitler, of course, they wouldn't have started.) Boyd’s favorite van Creveld book.

5. The Path to Victory, MAJ Don Vandergriff, USA. No, it’s not numbers and it’s not technology. Vandergriff, now retired, is highly regarded by many company-grade combat arms officers. Personnel types tend not to like him.

6. “Fourth Generation Warfare: What Does it Mean to Every Marine?,” Col Mike Wyly, USMC, ret. We’re sworn to defend the Constitution from all enemies, so it wouldn’t hurt to read it every now and then. Also, it’s the secret to our ultimate victory in 4GW.  Honorable mention to Mike Wyly's "Thinking Like Marines" (on our sister site,

7. “Grand Strategy,” Chet Richards. More on why grand ideas – and not firepower – are the ultimate keys to victory in 4GW. Honorable mention to Richards's "Riding the Tiger" (on

8. People’s War, People’s Army, Vo Nguyen Giap.  In 1961, Giap told us how he was going to fight us. You can sometimes buy it together with Mao’s On Guerilla Warfare in a package deal from Amazon.

9. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T. E. Lawrence. How you do guerrilla warfare in the desert. Might come in handy some day.

10. The Pentagon Wars, Col Jim Burton, USAF, ret.  A Boyd acolyte took on the US Army and soldiers are alive today because of it.  My advice: Read the book, skip the movie.

11. Same for Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein.)  As for Ender’s Game, the author, Orson Scott Card, wrote the first draft screenplay for the movie, scriptwriters have been signed, and Wolfgang Peterson (Troy, The Perfect Storm, Das Boot) is scheduled to direct.  So there is hope – in the meantime, by all means read the book.  You might also look into Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, which follows Richard Sharpe as he rises in Wellington's armies from Seringapatam to Waterloo, and Steven Pressfield's two novels on ancient Greece, Gates of Fire (Thermopylae) and The Virtues of War (Alexander).  Finally, there's one of the few novels centered around 4GW, The Devil's Footprint, by Victor O'Reilly, who has also consulted for the US Army on the subject.